Jason Hackett

Jason: A Campy Musical

Jason A Campy Musical(Fade in. A cool October evening in Deep Ellum, at the Dallas Comedy House's Training Center. A nervous young woman clutches her phone and a notepad, shifting in a rickety wheelie chair. Three men sit opposite her, equally nervous and shifty-eyed. Every creak of the building is exaggerated in the silence before the Jason: A Campy Musical interview.) Me: Could you guys talk a little bit so I can see where to put the mic?

Jason: Yes. Colten's man-spreading.

Colten: I have stopped man-spreading because now I'm self-conscious about it.

Daniel: Um, you're still man-spreading a bit.

Colten: Really?

Me: OK, there we go. You might just need to talk a little bit louder...

Colten: (Very quietly) I can do that.

Me: So, with me, I have Jason Hackett, Colten Winburn, and Daniel Matthews.

(David Allison could not be there, so I've inserted his responses where appropriate.)

Daniel: Just to clarify, Colten is spelled with an “E-N,” not an “O-N.” It's a common mistake.

Jason: And his middle name is “Man-Spread.” Just let the record indicate that the man lives up to the name.

Me: If possible, I'll draw a picture. (It was possible. See below. I felt bad that only Colten had a nickname so I took the liberty of giving one to everybody.)

Jason Musical

Me: First of all, congratulations. Opening night was awesome, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Would you guys like to start off talking about the show's inception, how you started getting everything together?

(Everyone looks at Daniel.)

Daniel: Uh...oh boy. Well, I got the idea last September, and it did not start out as me saying, “I want to write a musical.” It started out because there was nothing good on the radio during a drive, so I turned it off and started trying to make up lyrics to a song.

Me: Like you do.

Daniel: Haha, yeah, like you do. Colten and I work on improvising songs together from time to time, and we had been doing that, so I just started making up words. And, I got the line, “You can't make a horse drink when you lead him to water / You can't hand me a knife and expect me to slaughter.” And I really liked that line and thought, “What the hell kind of a song would that fit into?” And so, it was kind of just like, yeah, Jason Voorhees, if he didn't want to kill for some reason. And then, I talked with Colten, and we made it into a full song, got with David, learned our parts, separated the music out, and did a Block Party last October.

Jason: Which I hosted.

(Block Party, by the way, is a great little running program at the Dallas Comedy House (DCH), which is now hosted by Sallie Bowen. If you have 10 minutes worth of a show idea, submit to Block Party. It might even be picked for a longer running show. Anything goes!)

Daniel: We liked it so much that we did an encore performance of it on Halloween.

Colten: Was that after my thing?

Daniel: Yes, actually, it was part of Colten's Stage Fright sketch show last Halloween. And then, Amanda Austin said, “If you can make that into a full show, you can do it next year.” And it was just like, “Oh yeah. We're gonna do a musical...This is a very storied history. This is going on Twitter, right?

Me: Yes. I'll upload it piece by piece.

Daniel: Then David and I started working in earnest – I want to say in April or May. We started by watching the first three movies in the series, because honestly, I had never seen any one of them all the way through.

Me: Really?

Daniel: Really. I don't have a particular affinity for the franchise or the character. It all started because of, “Yeah, he might sing that line about the horse.” I also watched Jason Takes Manhattan because it had a ridiculous title.

Me: Doesn't he go to space at some point?

Daniel: Yes. That's Jason X. It's the 10th movie in the franchise and takes place 200 years in the future when a group of scientists decide to re-animate DNA, and it turns out to be Jason Voorhees.

(Colten laughs.)

Me: My brain hurts. So does my heart...Once you started writing seriously, was there a process to determine who would be suited for this musical? Did you just think of people you knew around DCH?

Daniel: The casting choices didn't come until much later in the process. We had the script almost finalized, and – well. The script was in a good place.

Jason: I mean, is it finalized yet?

Daniel: No. It's a living document. We had it in a good place, though, and Colten and I diddled out a few songs.

Colten: Most of the songs were diddled out.

Daniel: It's an industry term. Rogers and Hammerstein were proficient diddlers. But anyway – we didn't really have anyone in mind other than David and myself. We were going to play the main characters because we deserved it.

Me: Haha, fair enough.

Daniel: We just sat down and hammered out who we wanted to see. Who we knew around the club that might fit into each type of role. And David introduced the idea where – it was very important to him to include some of the performers who might not have as much experience. He didn't just want all the old dogs on stage, which I think is a wonderful choice because that's – we got Houston Hardaway, Darcy Armstrong, Emily Gee, those graduates – we wanted people who would be very excited to be in the show.

(There's a sudden jingling at the door. A face gazes in, stained with blood and wild-eyed – oh. Wait. It's just Wes Davis and the Saturday night intern crew, coming in clutch to clean the Training Center. Thanks ya'll! Don't worry, Daniel was nice and let them in.)

Jason: Around this time, they brought me into the process. Before this point, I wasn't involved at all. Hey Daniel, do you want to talk about bringing me into the process?

Daniel: I've talked enough. Let's hear your perspective.

Jason: Well – they asked me. That was my perspective. They asked if I wanted to direct it. I've never directed anything before. I was also unsure whether they knew that I very publicly dislike musicals, and of course, they were aware, and that did not seem to be an issue for them. So I was like, “I've never directed anything, I'll definitely give this a shot.” They brought me into the process. We started figuring out who to bring in for various roles. We auditioned people – that was the first time I'd ever been on that side of an audition table, so all in all it's been very interesting.

Me: Do you still dislike musicals?

Jason: Yes. I like this one. But you will not find me watching any musicals.

Jason Musical

Me: People don't usually think of horror and comedy together, so how did you work to combine the two?

Daniel: Oh yes they do. Scary Movie?

Jason: Yeah! I'd say they have a history. For me at least, I think there's a lot of similarity in the reactions people have. Laughter and fear are pretty closely tied in that they are uncontrollable experiences. I'll laugh if I've been startled.

Colten: (gazing off into the distance) All comedy is derived from fear.

(The lights flicker. Wes Davis drops his mop.)

Jason: Not to dismiss your initial premise.

Me: Oh no, I asked that question so you would say that. I already agree -

Daniel: Is this just a game to you?

Jason: Are you the Jigsaw in this...Saw...interview? I don't know where that bit was going.

Daniel: Well yeah. If you look at being scared and laughing, they both have this element of surprise to them, where laughter comes from the unexpected, and so does being startled. Both have a build up of tension and a release, a catharsis. But then, in terms of doing comedy from horror, it works so well because horror takes itself so seriously. If you've ever tried to parody something that's already funny, you can't because [the humor] is already there. But with horror, when everything is played so dramatically -

Me: Oh it's very pompous.

Daniel: Very pompous – but there's no intentional humor in the standard horror film. If you go back and watch the Friday the 13th  movies, they're pretty funny now because they're...campy, badum-ts. Joke. See title of show. But they're absurd just because they're bad.

Me: This is a very prop-heavy show. Were there any memorable workarounds, things you had to MacGyver to work right?

Colten: That's more David.

Jason: Yeah, David took charge of making all of those. When I read the script, particularly the [redacted] that gets pulled apart...well. I don't want to reveal anything. Oooh, wait, can this be redacted?

Me: The whole thing? Sure.

Daniel: Also, redact the part where I say [redacted].

Jason: I read that, and I thought, “Well, we'll have to get a whole [redacted],” but the next time we came in, “Oh...David did it.” I was very impressed.

David's response after the fact: "I just find props so fun to build. One of my favorite writing drills is, 'What can't we do on stage?' and then talking through how we can pull it off. Prop construction was really satisfying, and I'm very proud of how they turned out."

Me: Colten. You're very quiet. This next question's just for you...

Colten: Yay!

Jason: I'll take this one.

Daniel: Let me just say...

(All laugh.)

Me: When Daniel and David came to you with song ideas – what was the process there?

Colten: Daniel covered the lyric side. He'd come to me with song lyrics, sometimes melodies, usually both – and a lot of times, I'd say, “What do you want that melody to be?” And he'd sing it, and I'd try to pick it out, put chords to it, flesh it out...We'd brainstorm, once over Skype. Like, “'Flee' is a good word. How can we work it in?”...So yeah, very collaboratively with Daniel.

Daniel: One of the things that – I'm gonna compliment you right now, Colten -

Colten: Um, redacted.

Daniel: One of the things that Colten is so good at...If I didn't know the melody but knew the feeling I needed, I could explain that [feeling] to him in these weird terms... "I want it to be sad in a folksy way, like if Peter, Paul, and Mary wrote a dirge.” And Colten goes, “Hm...How's this?” and played exactly what I needed. That happened so many times...three seconds. And it was perfect.

Colten: Aw. Thanks!

Me: Dang! That was beautiful. Do y'all have a favorite memory from practicing?

Colten: I don't know...first time seeing Houston do his hosting song was really memorable.

Jason: Oh yeah! From the moment he came in, it was amazing.

Daniel: He did a great job of understanding that character and putting his on spin on it.

Jason: Mine would be my only contribution to the script, which would be Darcy's guitar solos. When I actually saw it in action, I was like, “Yeah. I made the right choice. I'm glad I added that.” That was the only thing I added out of whole cloth.

Me: I especially liked it because it gave a whole corniness to the whole thing...like a 90s sitcom.

Jason: Now that you say that, I want to add [redacted]...oh. Um, redact that.

Me: The whole thing?

Daniel: Yes. Let's just start over.

Colten: Second to that would be me playing "Ghostbusters" before the show. And then they asked me to play it again and again...

David's response after the fact: "Damn it, I was gonna say the first time Houston did the song! Um, maybe the time that the water pole fell out during a really emotional scene. The loud "THUD" juxtaposed against a tender moment in the middle of a stressed rehearsal was just so funny."

Me: Awesome. If there is a train going from Kansas City to Dallas at 60 miles per hour, who really killed Jason Voorhees?

Jason:...Those seem...unrelated.

Daniel: I want to hear what Colten says.

Jason: Yeah.

Colten: Hm...that throws everything off that I knew about Jason.

Daniel: Yeah, it only works if you're leaving from Dallas to Kansas.

Me: OK, then let's say that. What's your theory?

(Jason giggles.)

Jason: Is it a train or the band train?

Daniel: Oooh! How fast is it and/or they traveling?

All: Sixty miles an hour.

Colten: That's pretty slow for a train.

Daniel: I don't know... I mean, technically, the lake killed him.

Colten: But he's not dead.

Daniel: Yeah, so...nothing's killed him, though the lake did it temporarily...water.

Colten: The lake.

Me: Water or the lake?

Colten: The train.

Jason: Train water.

Me: That works. I'll accept that.

Daniel: That bit didn't go well. Redact it.

Colten: Just include my part about the band Train.

Me: Will do. Also, I think that's it...

Daniel: That's it?

Me: Unless you'd like to answer my other standard sketch question.

Jason: What is it?

Me: If this group was a vegetable, what would it be?

Colten: A pumpkin.

Daniel: 'Cause it's spooky.

(Jason laughs.)

Me: OooOOoohh! SpOOooky!

Colten: It's well carved.

Me: Is that a machete joke?

Colten: Um...yeah. Halloween, machete, it's anything you want it to be.

Daniel: It's a really gourd cast.

Me: Oh, [redacted] you.

Daniel: That can stay in.

Jason: Uh...pumpkins. They're not vegetables, are they?

Me: Oh, no. They're fruit. They have seeds.

Daniel: What's the most pumpkin-y fruit?

Colten: An eggplant!

(Why does everyone always want to be an eggplant? I'll never understand.)

Me: Oh, the FCC was already an eggplant. I apologize.

Colten: A carved eggplant?

Me: Doesn't count.

Jason: Um...Spaghetti squash.

Daniel: 'Cause it looks like brains?

Jason: Yeah, yeah!

Daniel: We're confident in our answer.

All: Spaghetti squash.

David's response after the fact: "That works for me because I love spaghetti squash and I love this show!"

(Fade out. A machete speared through a rubber chicken fades in. The credits roll:

Jason: A Campy Musical involves the talents of David Allison, Darcy Armstrong, Joseph Delgado, Emily Gee, Jason Hackett, Houston Hardaway, Daniel Matthews, Tyler Simpson, and the musical talents of Colten Winburn. The show is teched by Doug Caravella. If you'd like to see the show, it's running every Friday for the rest of October at the world famous Dallas Comedy House. Get your tickets while they're hot!)

A final comment from David: "[The cast and crew] were all a dream to work with. Seriously. Educated performers that have a detailed eye and are willing to speak up. And their work ethics!" 

(I'm sure they were, David. I'm sure they were.)

Jason Musical

Emily Baudot is a DCH graduate and sketch student. When she isn’t at the theater, she’s drinking at one of the bars down the street and trying to justify ordering dessert for dinner.  Or, she’s on her computer pretending she’s a banished orc maiden, whichever one sounds healthier to you. If her crippling addiction to sugar and caffeine doesn’t kill her, she can be seen on stage with the soon to be world famous Wild Strawberry and the already-Internet famous Wiki-Tikki-Tabby (just kidding, they do go online a lot though). She’s also a Pisces because that means something.

(Poster: Houston Hardaway. Drawings: Emily Baudot. Photo: Jason Hensel)

The Improvised Horror Movie

The American horror movie. What cinematic legacy can claim special effects mastery, emotional poignancy, and raw camp in the same breath? Scary movies have done so much good for cinema that it’s sickening. And now that we’re in the season (oh goodness HALLOWEEN I’m excited are you excited I love Halloween like no lie it’s my favorite holiday and I’ve been planning my costume for MONTHS) – Ahem. Sorry about that. As I was saying, now that we’re in season – eeek – the Dallas Comedy House (DCH) has started a month-long series of holiday-appropriate shows. As is tradition, it opened the first weekend of October with a premier of the Improvised Horror Movie. Though the show stands as a tribute to the horror genre, it also exists in memorial to Del Close, creator of the format, and Jason Chin, former director at iO Chicago who perfected the show. DCH runs the Improvised Horror Movie through the month of October as a dedication to their work. Improvised Horror MovieJust like its parent genre, the Improvised Horror Movie takes a couple different forms – forms, mind you, not scripts, because then it wouldn’t be improv, duh. Each form spins off of a particular type of horror movie. The version I had the pleasure of viewing was based off of one of my favorites: the "Slasher," wherein innocent, dumb kids fall prey to a psycho killing machine. Now that’s what I call comedy! Hooray!

The way the shindig worked in practice seemed pretty simple: At the top of the show, the audience assigned each cast member a role, all inspired by classic horror tropes. There’s a jock, a nerd, a goth, a stoner, a popular chick, and the surviving girl who will, in the end, determine who the killer is. (Spoiler alert, most of the archetypical characters die in a spectacularly funny fashion.)

Even though the roles are pre-determined and assigned at the beginning of the show, this doesn’t make things easier for the players. If anything, this is crazy hard. “Here’s a point of view, now understand it, adopt it as your own, and think up stuff to say from that point of view on the fly in front of strangers. Oh, and by the end of the show most of you have to have died and you have to be funny in the meantime.” Like, what even!?! That’s hard enough for me to do on a good day.

“Emily, you’re dumb. Those roles are pretty much stereotypes, and aren’t those at the antithesis of what good character work should be?”

Um, first, how dare you, I’m hella smart. Second, no. Just because the role’s been given to you, there’s still tons of flexibility as to what constitutes that role. Sporty jocks don’t have to be bullies, and the brainiac doesn't have to be socially awkward. For instance, the stoner in the last show (played by David Allison) was far away from being dumb and slow – instead, he was an energetic conspiracy theorist who suspected who the murderer was the whole time. (He felt the perpetrator was George W. Bush, but whether he was right or not is hardly the point here.) The popular girl (played by Maggie Rieth Austin) was ditzy, peppy, and fun – not a sexualized antithesis to the surviving girl the character is usually reduced to. Thinking with that kind of originality takes skill and quick thinking that isn’t often matched.

“Well, OK, fine, so the characters are diverse despite being typified. You still can’t bridge the gap between cinema and stage acting!”

Au contraire! You forget that critical element of improv – scene painting! It’s a heavy and, in this case, a critical show component. We already know what will happen at the end of our “movie” – the audience sticks around for the journey to that conclusion. Performers primarily conduct scene painting through a series of different “camera angles,” wherein they call out cinematic direction you’d normally only read in a script. These camera angles double as edits and is what give the audience a cinematic effect, if an imaginary one. Cast members are given close-ups, split-screens, and even aerial shots that they have to make work and incorporate seamlessly into the ongoing scene. Half of the fun lies in players giving each other impossible views to pull off. (Have you ever seen a dead man fly in circles around two women standing horizontally? Well, I did! You might see it, too, if you buy a ticket). It’s a brain and body workout, to be sure, not to mention the lighting and sound tricks that the techs execute on the fly. (Props to Raye Maddox - you done good, kiddo.)

Boy. What a ride. In short, this show is a keeper. It’s one of those shows at DCH that’s a must see. You won’t get spooked, but you’ll certainly laugh, and any student or fan of improv will also get a great lesson by simply watching the cast. Oh, before I forget – that cast includes David Allison, Amanda Austin, Sallie Bowen, Noa Gavin, Jason Hackett, Tabitha Parker, Ben Pfeiffer, Maggie Rieth Austin, and Nick Scott. The whole shebang is tech'ed by Jua Holt (Raye Maddox was the technical director for the show I saw). They all deserve a big ol’ basket of treats minus tricks, allergens, and razors. For tickets, please visit www.dallascomedyhouse.com.

Emily Baudot is a DCH graduate and sketch student. When she isn’t at the theater, she’s drinking at one of the bars down the street and trying to justify ordering dessert for dinner.  Or, she’s on her computer pretending she’s a banished orc maiden, whichever one sounds healthier to you. If her crippling addiction to sugar and caffeine doesn’t kill her, she can be seen on stage with the soon to be world famous Wild Strawberry and the already-Internet famous Wiki-Tikki-Tabby (just kidding, they do go online a lot though). She’s also a Pisces because that means something.

Here's Why You Should be a DCH Intern

DCH Interns Sarah Wyatt met her best friend through the Dallas Comedy House (DCH) internship program. Jason Hackett got a behind-the-scenes look as a DCH intern. Cesar Villa got a sweet, staff shirt.

There are approximately 30 interns each term working for DCH. Most of them are night interns, but some fill duties as bloggers, tech, and graphic artists. And since the club is made up of people who are supportive, creative, and ambitious, those are the types of interns it is looking for.

"Being an intern is more than just taking out trash and seating people," Wyatt said. "It's becoming a part of the community that can sometimes seem out of reach. You get to know your fellow students and performers quickly and more closely than if you just saw your two classes per term and ordered a few drinks from Ashley behind the bar. (Shout out Ashley! You killin it, gurl!)."

The internship program also gives you insight into how to smoothly run a comedy club's operations (that behind-the-scenes look).

"The most important aspect of all is that it gave me a sense of pride to be a part of DCH, a sense of stakes and ownership in the success of the Dallas comedy community itself," Hackett said. "As it grows, and my role within it changes, I still find myself feeling like that quiet intern I was for at least five terms, still in awe of the ephemeral magic that happens with frequency on those stages, and it makes me proud to have done my part to make that ship run smoothly."

Ashley Sarah

DCH prefers first-time interns to be going into Level 2, although exceptions have been made with a recommendation, usually from another improv community or DCH instructor or performer. Theoretically, too, you could intern for improv Levels 1 -5, Sketch Levels 1-3, Stand-up class, and then endless workshops.

"The internship program helped me do the one thing that classes can't teach, that has to come from your own motor: talking to people," Wyatt said. "I was very shy and introverted when I came to DCH. I was pretty shy and introverted during Level 1, too. It was being an intern that really made me come out of my shell. Having to talk to my comedy idols on a nightly basis was terrifying and thrilling, and I honestly can't say that I would have done it without being forced to as an intern."

Villa added that he was able to quickly fold into the DCH community as an intern.

"Performers I admired, teachers, and students ahead of me became friends," Villa said. "I went in with the mindset that no job is too small, and it didn't go unnoticed. I went from mopping the stage, sweeping the sidewalk, and restocking the beer fridge to now managing the intern program and techs."

Now is the time to consider being an intern. Not only do you receive tuition exchanged for your time, you get the inside track to an amazing community of supportive people. Term 6 applications are now open. Deadline to apply is Thursday, October 1, at 11:59 p.m.

"DCH is such a special place, and getting to be a part of showing that to people who come in, whether it's their first time or their millionth time is really amazing," said Andrea Urbina. "There is always something to do when you're interning. You get to know so many funny people and see what goes on behind the scenes each night. Interning at DCH has been such a fun and unique experience. I'm so glad I've gotten the opportunity to do it for the past three terms."

#ProudDCHIntern

JFK, Sugar Ray, and the Sixth Floored

Our latest Level 3 Sketch class work hard to produce a stellar show, and it's evident they succeeded with Sixth Floored. Performer Jonda Robinson and assistant director Julia Cotton fill us in about the revue and how sketch writing can help make you better improviser. How did the group land on the theme of the show? What is the through-line in each scene connecting with the overall Dallas/Kennedy title?

Jonda: Because this is the first sketch show at the new Dallas Comedy House (DCH), we thought it would be nice to try to write some things that were inspired by Dallas. Nick Scott (our director) asked us to bring in pitches that involved the city, and almost all of them had to do with the Kennedy assassination in some way. This made us think about how that event is still such a big deal for the city, and Dallas has never really moved on from it. In our scenes, we saw this related theme of characters being stuck in situations, unsure of how to move forward, and that became that thread that runs through the show.

Julia: Nick and I had them go around the table and just tell what was going on in their lives. In everyone's response there was some mention of not knowing what was coming next in their lives. Everyone seemed to hint at the need to move on to the next thing, but not quite being sure what that next thing was or even if moving on would be the right thing to do. So that's something underlining the show, for sure: staying stuck in a situation or moving on from it. JFK came along because I think we had them bring historical pitches and Dallas centric pitches in the same week. There was some grim holocaust stuff, some grim 9/11 stuff, but I think mostly JFK stuff came through the pipe that week, and we ended up running with that. There was a joke about the JFK assassination being the thing Dallas is most known for and there's like this weird sense of pride about it. The title Sixth Floored, though, is also a reference to the band Sugar Ray, which is another prominent element in the show (their second studio album was titled Floored).

Sixth Floored

How does working together as a sketch group differ from working together as improv troupe?

Jonda: When you are onstage as an improv troupe, you don’t have time to overthink—you just have time to react, and once a scene is finished, you’ll never do it again. In sketch, you get to take your basic idea, write it, and rewrite it until it’s something you really like. Sketch involves a lot of bouncing ideas off of each other and, as a group, picking the ones that work best. The collaboration is different, because you get to actually explain the reasoning for your choices and hear other ideas to see which is best before putting anything up for the audience.

Julia: You're getting to explore each other's ideas further, which is great on a lot of levels. Not only does that mean you're digging into the sketch and what can make it great and better and finding different directions it can go, but you're also digging into each other more. In improv, you make things up on the spot and scenes and moments pass so fast and you forget about them so quickly. With sketch, obviously you're planning things, so you can ask someone, "How did you get to that thought," which prompts a lot of conversations in and out of that writer’s room. Being able to bounce ideas back and forth, you end up getting a deeper look into each other's psyche. I like that, because there’s the opportunity for writing specific things about the people you’re working with.

Sixth Floored

How does writing influence your improv skills?

Jonda: Writing sketch has helped me become more aware of just how important the basics are in an improv scene. When you write something, you know that you need to get the set-up of the scene out as quickly and efficiently as possible. Without this foundation, the audience is left missing out. Writing sketch has also forced me to take the time to analyze the game of a scene and figure out how to best heighten it, which in turn has made it a little easier to recognize the game when I’m in the heat-of-the-moment of an improv scene.

Julia: I think both skill sets go hand in hand. I signed up for improv with the intention of getting into sketch writing. Doing improv makes you focus on things like “who, what, where” and “relationships” and “finding the fun” and “burning the leaves.” When you go into writing a sketch, all of those improv “rules” are so vital in giving you places to take a scene and finding out which one of those places is most interesting to explore and make a sketch out of. I feel like going back to improv after writing, you end up finding those interesting places faster.

What kind of work goes into putting on a sketch show?

Jonda: The work is basically four phases:

  1. Pitch a million ideas and pick the few that you like and have the most potential.
  2. Write, perform, rewrite, perform, rewrite again, rewrite some more, etc., until you have your sketches where you want them.
  3. Memorize your scripts and rehearse to get your performance down.
  4. Spend the entire run of your show having lots of fun with your group, because you’ve got it all down and are excited to show an audience what you’ve created.

Julia: Each week, everyone meets together in a “writer’s room” environment. The first couple of meetings everyone pitches ideas based on whatever’s happening (in their life, in the world, etc.), or maybe a prompt or theme is thrown out there (“pitch something about Dallas,” “pitch something about a particular historical event,” “pitch something about sports”). We go through all of the pitches, pick the ones that jump out enough for everyone, talk about them for a bit, and then improvise them. If something is working as an improvised scene, someone is assigned to take it and write it out. When there are enough scenes that kind of lean toward a similar theme, we get a few more pitches specifically for that theme and go through that same process with them. The directors take them all and come up with a preliminary show order and after that, it’s much like doing a theater production: Everyone needs to get "off book." Usually there’s some rewriting. There are ALWAYS sketches that get cut. There are revisions to the show order. There’s a prop list. There’s blocking/staging. There’s sound and lighting. There are rehearsals. There are tears. And then there’s a show!

Sixth Floored

Which skills does one need to be a good sketch performer?

Jonda: To be successful as a sketch performer, one needs the dedication to memorize lines and the willingness to try to play scenes in different ways, even if it pushes you out of your comfort zone. To use a term from my days playing team sports, you’ve got to be “coachable” and willing to listen to your director and fellow performers to make the performance the best it can be.

Julia: Having an improv background is definitely helpful, not only for writing but for the nature of live theater (because who knows what will happen that one time when someone forgets to bring the birthday cake prop on stage!). Also, all improv fundamentals are relevant in putting on a sketch show: support, react, use the environment, make eye contact, etc.

Confidence. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, it comes across in your performance, so the audience won’t believe it either.

Thick skin is important. Not only are there ALWAYS sketches that get cut, not all pitches get the reaction you’re hoping for. That doesn’t mean you can’t write them and prove everyone wrong! But also, writing them doesn’t always prove everyone wrong… :)

Patience with yourself, your cast mates, your directors, your tech people, and those people building a brand-new theater for you to perform in. Sketches don’t always come together the way we expect them to come together in our heads. You may write something for a long time and it end up making no sense to you or anyone else. There are always technical challenges. There are sometimes new theaters being built in the middle of trying to put together a show, and you don’t have a stage to rehearse on for a while. Trust that all will come together as it should.

Also, night vision is good if you have that, because sometimes it gets dark on that stage.

Sixth Floored

Are there any scenes left on the cutting room floor that you wish could have been performed? If so, which ones?

Jonda: I don’t want to give away too much information about those top-secret scenes, as we might want to pull them out at some point, but the one that comes to mind was entitled “Peanut Butter Slap” and involved Ashley in the role of an office janitor who violently interrogated us all because someone was slathering peanut butter all over the workplace. Sometimes those sketches that never make it to the stage are the most fun because you’re trying hard to make some crazy premise work, and along the way inside jokes are created within your group.

Julia: SO MANY!!!

Katie had a really good idea that no one really latched on to that I was kind of in to. Something about a woman that talked to people that kept leaving or dying, but someone else would come in and be there for her to keep talking to. Then I saw an episode of Louie later this season where he did EXACTLY THAT! It was a good idea. Louis C.K. thought so.

Also, there was a "Middle Aged Mutant Lawyer Turtles" thing that never quite came together.

Jason Hackett had one that I really loved, but I do believe he’s still going to perform it somewhere, so I don’t want to ruin it. Stay tuned for that.

Plus, who knows what we can add back throughout the run of the show...

Speaking of the show, you can catch Sixth Floored May 21, May 28, and June 4 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for advance purchase

Sixth Floored was written by and stars Ashley Bright, Jessica Dorrell, Jason Hackett, Jon Patrick, Katie Pedroza, Jonda Robinson, and Cesar Villa. It is directed by Nick Scott and assistant directed by Julia Cotton. 

Sixth Floored